Finally! Chemo is over!

It is! Can you believe it? Yes, I still have to wait for the side effects to subside but that should only take a couple of weeks. Although, you know what I’ve noticed? That my body seems to have gotten used to the chemo infusion every three weeks because just a few days before the third week my mouth starts to feel tender. We’ll see how it goes this time but I’ll try not to think about it too much so that I’m not bringing it on with my thoughts. Anyway, I wanted to let you know how I feel about chemotherapy and the fact that I’m done with it.

First of all, I think I was fortunate in that I thought I was going to go through 16 rounds of it. That’s what I was expecting and trying to get ready for – sixteen! So when, on my fourth round, the nurse said, “Only two more to go!” with a big smile, it felt like a HUGE relief. Not only that but it felt like it went by soooo much faster. I have to admit though, that the last two were the hardest because I knew that I only had two more to go and it seemed that the hands on the clock just wouldn’t go fast enough. But it finally came and no, it’s not over because I still need to go through a Herceptin infusion every three weeks and of course, surgery but I’ll jump through that hoop when I get to it. Right now I want to enjoy the fact that I no longer have to go through the upset stomach and the tired legs and tender mouth and especially, the tasteless food. That’s what I’m happy about right now.

I also want to tell you that I could not be more grateful and fortunate to have the family that God gave me. I’ve had all the support that anybody could want and for that I’m grateful. I know there have been days when it didn’t seem that way, when the housework put me in a bad mood or when your brothers’ screaming was too much or you made me mad or when your dad was too sensitive and made me mad too, it may have seemed as though I couldn’t see the good that was happening in our home or like all of this was going to be so much harder than anybody would have thought but believe I was trying hard every single day. And look at us! We’ve made it through the first part and we’re alive and happy and sometimes mad or sad or whatever but isn’t that every family? And considering what we have been through these past months, I’d say we’re doing awesomely (how do you like my new word?) well, don’t you think?

The last thing I wanted to tell you is that I’ve decided to start a new blog. Remember how you though one my new journals was going to be about the current political/social situation? (Yes, I do NOT want to write his name) Well, no the journal hasn’t been completely about that but I do have to mention it every once in a while. But what you and the journal made me think was that what I want to say, I want to say to others not just to myself. I have a lot of thoughts about everything that is going on and not so much politically but socially because that’s what makes my head feel blubbered. So, yeah, that’s one of the reasons I started the new blog. Another reason is that I needed a platform for my writing because I’ve been stuck with your grandma’s story and haven’t been able to write much about anything else. I need a place where I feel like my writing is serving some sort of purpose. If you go right now, to the new blog ,you’ll notice that I haven’t written about anything serious yet, that’s because I’m a “test the waters first” kind of person, you know that. Besides, writing essays takes a while and although I enjoy writing them, they are not easy to write but you know that already don’t you?

There you go! that’s what’s going on right now and what I hope you take from this is that gratitude is very important. Always be grateful for the little, the medium, and the big people, things and situations that life gives you. Being grateful for the little things though (food, water, warm showers, the window in your room, sight, touch, sound, taste, smell, etc.), that is especially important because it keeps you attentive, grounded, and happy. It takes practice but it is doable, believe me 🙂

As always, I love you very much!

Mom

 

P.S. The new blog address is: esperanzabeltranblog.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My (lack of) hair, again . . .

I’ve been thinking that I had not shared with you how I felt the day I shaved my head. That was a very important day in my life with cancer. And because I can’t remember exactly what I felt, I’m going to share with you that very special part of my journal.

I shaved my head.

Of course I cried. I had to. I think it was like the ultimate sign of my having cancer. This whole cancer thing still feels strange. Foreign, even. Like it’s still not something I’m going through. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. As in: Really? It’s me who has cancer? Or maybe it’s not so much a question as it is a shock. I don’t know. All I know is I have a lot to be thankful for. My husband who, not only shaved my head and shaved his own, but also cried with me when I faced him with my bald head. Maybe it was the waiting for the baldness to arrive that had me in a rut. I don’t know but whatever it was I guess I simply accepted that I had to do this, like the quick pull of a bandage. It’s faster and less painful but painful nonetheless. And I’m still a woman. A stronger woman? I hope so. I strive to be so. There’s still a picture I need to take. I know that one day I will want to look back just to see how far I’ve come (or will have come). There’s still a lot of work to do. Still a lot of fears to overcome. It’s okay. All will be – is – as it is supposed to be and You (God) are with me. Thank you!

I hadn’t read this util now and I’m glad I felt this way because as you know I don’t always feel like this. But when it’s necessary, I do. I have to. I have to because if I don’t then I will fall deep. Becoming bald was not easy but actually being bald has not been all that hard. It’s easy to cover up, it’s forced me to get creative and see myself in a new way. It’s one thing less to worry about in the mornings. It’s forced me to see a part of me I had not seen before and today, physically at least,  I know myself just a little bit better than I did before. All this is not so say that I want to remain bald because I don’t. I already have a stylist lined up and  am more than excited imaging how I’m going to style my hair when it grows back. What if it grows back curly? or brown? or thicker? or white?! I try not to scare myself with that but I do think about it and if it does grow back white I gonna try my hardest to just own it and be happy to have hair. We’ll see how that works out for me.

I leave you with a picture I took today on my morning walk . . .

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P.S. I love you very mucho!

Love,

Mom

 

 

This Year . . .

I’ve decided to start writing about this cancer thing I’m going through. I’m at Barnes and Noble right now, I’ve picked up a few interesting books I think will help me understand what it is my body’s going through. How my brain (mind) can help me heal my body. I also want to explore how art and creativity will play a role in this. Actually there’s a few parts to this (in no specific order):

• The Brain
• Nutrition
• Creativity
• Spirituality
• Friends and Family
• Biology

This is a draft version of how I’m dividing my understanding of everything I’m going through. My head seems to be going in circles right now cause I’m so excited. I’m also worried a little about my grandmother’s story but something tells me that this has to come first. I have to understand myself first before I can continue trying to understand someone else. I feel like I’m my own little experiment. Anyway, the last thing I want to do is stress myself out worrying about a story that I know I can’t continue right now. Okay, so the books I’ve decided to begin my research with is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Who is Henrietta Lacks? She is a woman whose cells were cut from her cervix some months before her death and now those cells are the first immortal human cells. This is a small excerpt from the book:

“…what she’d think about cells from her cervix living on forever – bought, sold, packaged and shipped by the trillions to laboratories around the world. I’ve tried to imagine how she’d feel knowing that her cells went up in the first space mission to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity, or that they helped with some of the most important advances medicine: the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization.”

Very interesting right? This is a woman whose cells helped in creating what is now helping heal the cells in my own body. I think that is so amazing, my own little connection to this black woman who lived in the early 20th century.

This is where I’m so happy I love to read!

Everything will be okay, I hope you know that 🙂

Love,

Mom

Mercy and When the Forgiveness Lightbulb Flashed

I had already been diagnosed when one day you came home excited because you had talked about cancer in one of your classes. You said, “Basically, it’s like your body is mad at you.” That thought, in a slightly different form, had already begun to slowly try to sneak up on me. It was gonna be one more thing to add to my list of things I had done wrong. But that little line was like a big neon sign shining in my face. Not because I didn’t like what you said but because it was true. You know what neon signs do, don’t you? They make you act. Like a picture of a pink neon girl shining – never mind…

Anyway, I had to act upon that sign instead of taking it as a straightforward accusation of some sort.

I thought about that line over and over, wondering what the answer was. Even though it wasn’t a question. I was making myself mad at those who had hurt me but really, if I boiled it down, I was mad at myself.  So I came to the conclusion that– as duh as it may seem – I needed to not be mad at myself and in order to do that I needed to forgive myself for everything: the times I had hurt myself, the times I had allowed others to hurt me and the times I had hurt others (especially my children).

So yeah, your line is kind of what turned on that self-forgiveness lightbulb for me.

I haven’t for a minute thought that God is punishing me with this disease. So when your uncle’s wife (or girlfriend) has told me more than once that I should ask God for misericordia. I don’t say anything to her because that is what she believes and for me to try to explain my beliefs to a Mexican sixty-year old woman would be like trying to shake a tree from where it has spread its roots with my bare hands, it’s not happening. I think of a way I might be able to explain this to her, it might go something like this

Okay, listen lady!

Just kidding :l

Seriously . . .

Ummm . . . . . . . . . I don’t really believe that I need to ask God for mercy because I don’t believe He is punishing me. One asks for mercy from someone who is punishing or hurting one in some way and I don’t believe God punishes.

Do you think that would work? Or do you think there would be a Pero…

Anyway, so yes that is why I do not ask for mercy.

I asked for mercy enough times in elementary school. My friends and I used to play a game called “mercy.” The way it worked was we interlaced our fingers and one of us would put the pressure – as hard as possible – and other one had to yell Mercy! when she couldn’t take it anymore. The point of the game, of course, was to see who could take the most pain. I remember crushing a few fingers 😉

That game was fun!

So Goodnight from this comfy hospital bed that bends in all the right places. May your dreams be beautiful dreams filled with unicorns and mermaids and gnomes.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

HONESTLY . . .

Honestly, I was feeling like a superwoman the first few days.

You’ll feel nauseous, you’ll be in bed, throwing up, you might cry of pain, every worst possible scenario was spoken to me. But when I got up from that comfy chemo chair and walked out of the City of Hope without a single pain and one, two, three days went by without too many reactions, I wondered what the heck all those doctors, nurses and ex-cancer patients had been talking about.

I had been getting up before 6 to shower and get your brothers ready for school. Up early and doing the things I usually do. Friday I drove 100 miles to see my therapist because I really felt like it and because I was feeling up to the drive. Yeah there were some stomach cramps and towards the end of the drive the bones in my feet were beginning to hurt. Still, I tried to keep my spirits up with my Spotify lists of fun music. Like 2Pac and Eminem. I know you’re thinking I should be listening to Celine Dion and Ana Gabriel. I agree, just not always.

When I got home yesterday and saw the delicious chicken legs in the skillet and the colorful vegetables in the steamer that your grandma had prepared, my stomach got excited. I sat down at the table with her and took a really nice bite to the meaty part of the leg. Tasteless. Just like the lunch I had taken with me for the drive. No flavor. My tongue feels raspy, as if it just had a handful of salt poured over it. Even water has no taste. Can you imagine? I can’t even taste the absence of taste? Anyway, I still ate because I was hungry and because I have to. But by the end of my dinner I’m wondering if I will have to live without taste for the next couple of months. I’m worried, I’m already not a big eater.

I woke up today, Saturday, with pain in my feet and my stomach cramping. I didn’t get up to shower, instead I got up to spend 20 minutes on the toilet because chemo has made me very constipated. After those very long minutes without my book, because I had forgotten to take it with me, I walked out to the kitchen and had breakfast. As tasteless as the chicken leg. The rest you know, I laid in your bed trying to stay put. While you showered I started thinking and told myself that I am not exempt from any of the discomforts (I know that’s putting it lightly) that other cancer patients have had. I’m not Superwoman, I am not superhuman and I do not have a free pass. What I do have is this. Where I can let you know what it’s like for me and where I let you into my mind if just for a little sneak peek. I hope it’s not too scary. Lol

I leave you with this, a text my writer friend sent me:

Everyday [in treatment] is a day closer to full good health.

This just summed up everything for me and I hope it does the same for you as you go through this with me.

I love you with all my heart,

Mom